Collage by Beth.

Collage by Beth.

A few days ago you two were “just friends,” but now the air between you feels different. Suddenly, the way you look at your pal is a mirror image of the “cat with hearts for eyes” emoji. When they make a joke, you laugh too loud, then think, Oh shit, they know. You blush when someone brings them up in conversation, and stammer, “SHUT UP, YOU ARE,” when you get called out for blushing. You want to spend all your time with them (with some of that time involving your tongues touching). You’re deep, deep in it: You’ve got a crush on your friend. Oh NO, right?

Not exactly! We all know the supposed hazards of crushing on a bud—awkwardness, bad vibes, and the number-one enemy to fragile hearts (all hearts) everywhere, “ruining the friendship.” We’ll get into this more a little later, but I promise you: This is a bunk theory.

There are probably at least three or four good friends on my Hard Crush list and dozens more on my Soft. (Soft Crush = would hit it, plain and simple, I think this person is a pure babe and want our bodies to be friends; Hard Crush = please pet my hair while we watch a movie and tell your mom you like me; did you know I wrote a song about you, nothing weird you’re just amazing?) Some of them are aware of their status as crushees and some of them aren’t, and, overall, I feel pretty OK. You can have a crush on a buddy—and maybe even tell them about it!—and it does not have to ruin anything. Not your life, not your friendship, not your ability to listen to instrumental guitar music without crying. Walk with me and see!

CRUSHES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FUN. (No pressure, or anything!)

What is the point of a crush, except to indulge heavily in your Dramatic Gesture fantasy life? To feel tingly in your stomach, your feet, and your everywhere else because they’ve made a joke that is, like, EXACTLY your sense of humor and can you believe this person exists and is close to you right now?! To maybe have a bunch of very intense dreams that you try to work up the courage to tell them about, but mostly just turn your journal into a work of erotic friend fiction? Think about how fun it is to crush on someone completely unattainable, like Rihanna or D’Artagnan, the fictional Musketeer from the Alexandre Dumas novel (I like a large hat on a man, OK)? Isn’t it nice to just bask in another person’s awesomeness?

If your crush is your friend, nothing changes about your appreciation for their greatness—you just have more access to it. Instead of worrying about how your crush will affect you and the friendship in the long run, take some time to enjoy the feeling itself. Go Classic Crush and doodle their name somewhere, or rev it up and write some anonymous Tumblr poems about them. In high school, I wrote dozens of poems dedicated to this one longhair I was into as more than friends. My favorite poem features an extended metaphor about how he and I are both “playing a game” that “everyone loses.” It was both very deep and very intense—an exact (if embarrassing) mirror of my crush. A crush is its own exquisite and terrible joy. Bathe in it.

Your “friend crush” might actually just be a crush-crush.

The most confusing part of realizing you have feelings for a friend is that sometimes that friend is not the gender you’re typically attracted to. This is part of being aware of and open to changes in your mind and mood and kind of sitting back and noting, Oh, there that is. Of course, it’s not always easy to process these changes. It was certainly VERY confusing when I realized that the girl in my English class who I wanted to dress like, be friends with, and potentially coax into revealing all her makeup secrets was not a “friend crush” at all, but a crush-crush. Like a true, real, “You’re amazing, I’m nervous around you, and what if we kissed” crush.

We did kiss, and we stayed friends too. It all went down one wintry night after class, when another friend was like, “Oh my god you guys are flirting so hard right now!” and I realized, Oh, yeah….we are, and my crush and I kind of mutually broke off from the group and ended up making out. I have not wanted to kiss many other women since, but I know now that nothing about myself would change if I met another woman whom I did. We were friends, and then we were kind of more than friends, and then we were friends again—and we’re both still who we were before.

Should you tell them?

Do you want to? If so: Yes. If not: No. Of course, sometimes the answer is, “OBVIOUSLY I DO IT’S KILLING ME INSIDE, but also, no, not really, I’m nervous.” Fair enough. As long as you’re comfortable with not having control over the outcome of your revelation—which you don’t—there is nothing to be lost from sharing your feelings with your friend.

Let’s consider the options: They might be weirded out. They might put some distance between you guys for a bit. They might tell other people about it. They might be into it! They might be VERY into it. So what’s the worst that can happen? Best-case scenario, you have a mutual crush. Worst-case, you feel a bit confused, or sad, or awkward, or your feelings get hurt. But those worst-case scenarios are not life-ruiners. You’ve got a lot else going on! Work stuff, life stuff, What if I had a dog, how often would I Instagram it stuff.

The premise that a friendship can be ruined by someone expressing their honest, true feelings is my least favorite idea in the history of ideas. Who is responsible for this?? (Rom-coms, is it you? Mumblecore, I’m looking at you, and not in a good way.) Wherever it came from, it’s patently ridiculous. It presumes that relationships exist in stasis, like you established a fixed level of closeness one day and now the rest of your interactions must be a carefully guarded dance designed to maintain your agreed level of closeness. Do you really think a person who cares about you is going to drop you completely because you told them you feel strongly about them and they aren’t interested in you “in that way”? Not to be all Everyone’s Mom about this, but what kind of friend is that?